Ho Chi Minh City had it 25 years ago when Vietnam started to open its doors to tourism and lacked enough standard accommodation. Boats converted into hotels were then the solution to ease demand versus room supply. The same appears today in Yangon where demand for accommodation of international standard continues to surpass supply.
While Yangon received last year 973,000 international travellers (up by 21% over 2013), total hotel capacity in the upper market and luxury segment reaches only 2,200 rooms in 2014, grow by another 1,000 bed rooms this year before to reach 4,500 rooms in 2016 and 6,000 rooms by 2018. Yangon represents 30% of all hotel capacities, estimated to now reach over 35,000 beds.
Yangon need for new capacities translated into the opening earlier this year of one the most original properties in town, the Vintage Luxury Yacht Hotel (VLYH), a rather stylish and unusual boatel.
Just a few meters away from the Botahtaung Pagoda at Botahtaung Jetty, along the Yangon River is anchored a boat offering 104 rooms in an atmosphere reminiscent of the roaring 1920s. Originally operated in Finland, the boat has been totally refurbished and transformed to offer to its guests a true 1920 experience.
All is there to evoke old good days of British India. Telephones look genuinely antique, lanterns and globes inside the room give the right touch of colonial times while a fake fire coming out from a fake stove or a chimney hides in fact the air con system. Brass, wood, leather have been extensively used to give this patina and nostalgic atmosphere to guests.
Behind all the accessories is a high tech modern looking hotel. Each room is equipped with flat-screen 42’’ LCD TV; wifi is widely available all over the hotel. It can sound kitsch and finally the hotel turns rather comfortable and cosy.
A plus is the spa and fitness room on the boat roof providing a great view on the Yangon River and its never-ending movement of ships. Sunsets over the river from the roof top are second to none indeed with private dinners able to cater for up to 1,000 guests. Unusual is also the meeting room, reproducing the English Parliament Theatre. Up to 40 delegates can seat in the meeting rooms.
The only minor complaint that guests could have would be about the walking access to the anchored boat. Located in a rather empty area, surrounded by containers, it is a sharp contrast to the glamour ambiance of VLYH Boat. But according to the hotel management, there is little to be done as the land surrounding the hotel does belong to Yangon Public Administration.